Long road ahead for new senator

The Soundview Heath Centre, run by former state senator Pedro Espada, Jr. and at the centre of allegations against him. Photo: Nicola Kean

The Soundview Heath Centre, run by former state senator Pedro Espada, Jr., and at the centre of allegations against him. Photo: Nicola Kean

Gustavo Rivera may be packing for Albany after ousting the tainted Pedro Espada, Jr. from his state senate seat by a two-to-one margin in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

But for some residents, the former campaign worker still has a long road ahead to earn the trust of the Bronxites who voted for him.

“Usually a lot of these officials, they come into office they say they need your vote to do this, to do that, but when they get to office nothing is done,” said 25-year-old Soundview resident Antony Johnson. “It’s a big disappointment. They fly away, whatever they do.”

Simon Delacruz, 57, who was standing with Johnson on the corner of White Plains Road and Lafayette Avenue, couldn’t contain his cynicism.

“They show up when they want something from you,” Delacruz said. “But after that it’s hard to see the people.”

Fordham resident Jackie Rivera, 36, said she didn’t have time to vote, but even if she had, would not have voted anyway.

“I don’t really like Espada, and Rivera I don’t know him much,” she said, “but I don’t think any of them are worth it.”

Although Rivera posted a convincing margin, Monroe College business professor Will Crittendon believes voters were more interested in ousting Espada than securing a Rivera victory. Crittendon said he didn’t vote in the primary because he was turned off by both campaigns.

But Rivera, who said he knocked on doors every day in the months leading up to the primary, argued that his experience was vastly different. He believes Bronx residents were strongly dissatisfied with the status quo in Albany.

“It was clear that they do have an understanding that not only have they been failed by the current senator,” Rivera said, “they also have an understanding that dysfunction in Albany impacts their lives. If that was not the case, we would not have had the numbers that we had.”

Rivera had spent about $76,400 less on his campaign than Espada as of Sept. 3, when both candidates were required to file their disclosure forms with the State Board of Elections, but drew in 6,870 voters, according to NY1.com. Espada grabbed 3,607 votes. And Dan Padernacht, who had withdrawn his candidacy, yet remained on the ballot, finished with 567 votes.

Although he is not sworn in until January and does not yet have an office or staff, Rivera plans to start holding town hall forums with other community politicians and state agencies. “This district has been ignored for way too long,” he said.

Rivera’s campaign stances ranged from marriage equality to creating a clean energy economy to improving schools, but perhaps the cornerstone was restoring trust in the government.

For now, Rivera is spending time thanking members of the community who helped with his campaign and is focused on developing a transitional plan.

“I understand why people would be resistant to believing change is possible,” Rivera said. “The only thing I can ask from them is to keep me accountable just like we kept Espada accountable on Tuesday. I will work to make sure that I gain their trust…I understand the responsibility that entails. I’m taking that seriously, and I understand who I work for.”

Tonight David King from Gotham Gazette and Roberto Perez from the Perez Notes will delve deeper into the primary election reaction on BronxTalk. Bronx residents can tune in at 9 p.m. on Bronxnet’s channel 67, or phone in their own opinions during the program by calling 718-960-7241

One Response to “Long road ahead for new senator”

  1. avatar 33rd Sen Dist Constituent says:

    It might have been more helpful to go to a location actually in the 33rd District to get comments. Soundview, where Mr. Johnson lives, is in the 32nd District. The corner where you say the interview of Delacruz occurred is also in the 32nd District. Why are you asking constituents in the 32nd about the results in the 33rd? Very strange.


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